Tel Aviv to run hi-speed buses on site of future light rail

If it goes into effect, the BRT line will open in 2013 as a temporary solution until a light rail line is built in 2017.

311_new Jlem buses (photo credit: Sybil Ehrlich)
311_new Jlem buses
(photo credit: Sybil Ehrlich)
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality is working in collaboration with the Transportation Ministry and the Dan bus company to run a “bus rapid transit” (BRT) line along what is set to be a future light rail line, the municipality announced this week on its Facebook page.
If it goes into effect, the BRT line will open in 2013 as a temporary solution until a light rail line is built in 2017. The Red Line, which is set to be the first line in the city’s light rail system, will run 23 km. from Bat Yam through Tel Aviv to Petah Tikva, connecting the city’s southern and northern suburbs.
The announcement of the BRT plan comes after the municipality stated on its Facebook page Sunday that it would make busonly lanes on Ibn Gvirol, Carlebach, King George and Yitzhak Elhanan streets, and asked residents to suggest other streets for such lanes.
BRT lines use higher-occupancy buses that drive along exclusive traffic lanes where they have priority at stoplights. They also run at a much higher frequency, and tickets are typically sold based on the time and distance the passenger rides.
It is expected that if the BRT system works on the Red Line route, the Finance and Transportation ministries will back other such plans on future light rail lines in the Tel Aviv area.
The Tel Aviv light rail system was approved by the government in December, when it gave the Transportation Ministry a mandate to advance the development of such a system after a contract to construct it privately was cancelled.
A budget of NIS 11 billion has been allocated to the Transportation Ministry to carry out the project.
In December, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called the project “the most important transportation project in Israel.”
Hadash MK Dov Henin, head of the interministerial committee on health and the environment, praised the Tel Aviv Municipality’s decision on Tuesday.
“The residents of Gush Dan deserve public transportation solutions. It is impossible to continue to wait for light or heavy railways,” he said. “The decision to approve high-speed bus lines – which will be given preference in lanes and at traffic lights, and won’t be required to sit in gridlock – is a real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Henin also mentioned his committee’s ruling that Israel would build a modern public transportation system in the Dan region that would operate the same as a subway system, only without having to build underground or purchase railway infrastructure – “through the use of a network of cheap and fast buses.”
Tel Aviv resident Jesse Fox, an urban planner and an advocate for greater transparency in the city’s planning system, said BRT “absolutely could work here. It basically functions like a subway, only it runs on the surface.”
He noted that “they are building BRT systems in Amman, Jerusalem and Haifa, and I think the only obstacle to doing the same in Tel Aviv was a mental barrier among certain decision-makers.”
Fox added, “Suddenly, it seems, the thinking has changed.
I guess they realized that the light rail is still too far off, and the bus system isn’t efficient enough to solve the problem. BRT is somewhere in the middle.”